Christians have created our own subgenre of speculative fiction: End Times fiction, the total end of the world according to biblical prophecy. I am going to state, right here at the beginning, that I have never really cared for this subgenre.
It’s not due to any theological convictions. I have no objection to stories based on an imagined fulfillment of the End Times, nor am I wedded to any particular interpretation of the biblical prophecies. Not that I’m wholly neutral – there are interpretations I lean toward, and interpretations I lean against – but I’m uncommitted to any one End Times theology. Because I don’t understand Revelation.
Oh, I understand the broad points – Man’s sin, God’s judgment, horrible calamities, the end of the world, the return of Christ, the new heaven and the new earth. But who (or what) are the two witnesses? Who (or what) is Babylon the Great, the scarlet beast, and the ten kings? What are Gog and Magog, and how do the prophecies in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Daniel fit in with the visions of Revelation? Beats me.
So I don’t know what the End Times will look like, and deep down, I suspect that nobody else does, either. Beyond the symbolic and even esoteric nature of so much End Times prophecy, weren’t we warned that the end would come suddenly and we have to keep watch so that we will not be caught unawares? It seems to me that, if the end of the world really were easy to describe and predict, we would not be so liable to be caught unready.
In consequence, I instinctively doubt those End Times theologies that have everything explained and neatly fitted together. But one of the joys of speculative fiction is that you can enjoy ideas without finding them credible. For the sake of a good story, I’ve rolled with science I knew to be completely spurious. I can certainly roll with interpretations of the End Times I find unconvincing.
But while I feel prepared to suspend disbelief regarding the theology itself, it tends to affect the story in two ways I can’t so easily take. In the first place, End Times novels can get predictable. I’ve read Revelation and I know the inevitable plot points. I know that the powerful, charismatic leader is going to turn out to be the Anti-Christ, and that the supposed world community is an evil empire, and I know that war will follow plagues and Jerusalem will be attacked. I know that the whole world will follow the evil, charismatic, literally diabolical leader right over a cliff, and I know that the heroes will lose and lose and lose, and then the world will end, and I find it all very depressing.
Which is the second thing I don’t like about End Times novels: They can get so dreary. The end of the world is generally taken to be a depressing thing, but even worse, from the reader’s perspective, is watching the heroes fight chapter after chapter and just knowing that they are never going to win.
It may truly be said that as terrible as the end of the world would be, it should be outweighed by the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. But again, this is a matter of the End Times in fiction, not in actual fact. I rarely find five minutes of happiness at the end of a book to be worth the long journey of misery leading up to it. C.S. Lewis, in The Last Battle, did manage to give the joys following the end of Narnia more impact than the end itself, but there are few like C.S. Lewis. (And, notably, the Narnian Apocalypse was played out on a relatively small scale.)
My bias against End Times fiction is not insuperable. I enjoyed the Swipe series, by Evan Angler, even after I figured out it was about the End Times. I still regret that the series appears to have been dropped unfinished, probably because DOME finally caught up with Evan Angler. But as a rule, if I learn that a novel is about the End Times, I read something else.